An event we didn’t miss, was the ‘Festival Navideño – Atenas Se Ilumina 2011’ in Atenas Centro. And a fiesta it was! Stores ablaze with lights and Christmas decorations were in competition with Papusa, Pizza and Cotton Candy booths, tchotchke vendors, kebab grills, and activity stations offering their goods throughout the main town square and parque, churchyard, and surrounding streets.
A throng of people toing and froing, children chasing each other, family groups, courting couples, parents with babes-in-arms, abuelitos with grandchildren, and us. The bandstand hosted a variety of musical performances, with El Payasito Torrejitos, clown, magician and comedian, entertaining the children and young at heart during intermissions. Some ex-pats were also part of the activities, like my neighbor Dr. Nansi Swartwout, who performed a selection of seasonal classics with her church choir and delighted her listeners with a lovely Ave Maria duet. Young students of the ‘Escuela Morazan’ and ‘Su Espacio’ studios excelled with dance recitals to the delight of their proud parents and friends, while musical groups, instrumental or vocal, were vying for everyone’s attention at every turn. As darkness fell, the entire town was getting ready for the festival’s coup de resistance, The Parade. The major streets in the center of town had been cordoned off as a parade route, to allow passage of floats, decorated vehicles and representatives of groups and organizations.
“The theme for this year’s Festival was water and its importance to our daily life. The structure that our colleague designed was a watermill driving the mechanical processing of sugar cane for juice. In addition, he had the clever idea of processing the cane a few hours in advance so we could offer small samples as our float made its way through the street of Atenas. The old-fashioned way to process sugar cane, of course, is with a team of oxen, and when I accepted the request to help ‘tie the juice bags’, I had no idea what I was signing up for!
When I arrived at the designated ‘mill’, I heard a man speaking sharply. I thought he was talking to a rebellious worker about to get fired because I heard: “I have had an extremely difficult day. You know what’s expected of you. You know the work that we need to do today. You know I won’t tolerate your outbursts.” When I realized, he was speaking to one of his oxen, my heart melted. In that exact moment, I understood really for the first time the kind of bond that takes place in this tradition we call ‘boyeo’.”
Just reading Marietta’s account touched me, too!
But back to our parade, after a lengthy wait to get all those parade ducks in a row, the evening’s main event was opening with ear-splitting noise. The first two entries, representing the countries fabulous emergency services, EMS and Firefighters, didn’t go easy on their vehicles’ siren systems!!
Thank you Atenas, thank you to all the organizations who contributed to the event and a huge ¡Gracias! to everyone, who worked so hard to give the whole community a truly memorable day!